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Influential Figures in My Life: Colin Wilson

March 25, 2013

colin wilson For a free-thinking philosopher, independent of the academic, professionally constrained world, in England in the late 20th century, you can’t look much further than Colin Wilson. It is very refreshing to read the writing of someone not towing a line of professionalism. For other countries this may not be such a big problem. But for an intellectual in Britain, getting respectability outside of your own academic degree specialty is very hard.

This has something Colin Wilson has managed to do, through writing a series of books all informed by his same central philosophy. This philosophy is devoted to the development of faculty X as he calls it. The faculty we draw upon to bring creative insights together. To synthesize the collections of data and information we build up through life into something new and innovative.

outsiderThe first book of his that I got into was the outsider, another book that my dad introduced me to. It is an in depth analysis of a number of great literary works from an existentialist angle. Such as the work of Hesse, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky and Camus. It inspired me to read more of these kind of books, and to learn to appreciate more the historical context and overall meaning they were trying to get at. And the philosophy they were promoting, beyond just telling a story.

occultHis other works go into great detail on the history of what he sees as people making use of faculty X to achieve things. In books such as, the occult and mysteries. Once again it was refreshing to see some one with an open mind to ideas that for many in the professional, academic arena, had become taboo subjects. I am not sure what occult phenomena do and don’t actually amount to anything real. But what I do think is that a spiritual dimension is crucial to human existence through all ages. So to see someone addressing these subjects from an angle of honest study. Not from an attitude of debunking them or indulging in them, was a great thing for me, and was very influential in my views on these subjects.

In one of his works, the new existentialism, he talks about a new approach to philosophy. It has some cross over with my views of the phenomenological approach. In that, it is the same existentialism that we have developed our philosophical views in response to. Though I do not place the same stress on faculty X. I think instead we need just call it the primacy of perception. It is not a special faculty, just a common faculty we all have access to in a primordial sense in our understanding of the world.

He does not engage with many other philosophers of the analytic tradition of philosophy, which is one draw back to his views. He does not attempt to argue much with them, but thinks of himself as separate from them to some extent. As more coming from the angle of literature and continental philosophy. I think this is a slight shame, as there is a good debate and argument to be had with the analytic tradition. And there is much of philosophical interest in it also.

Having said this, Colin Wilson is a great alternative to some of the constricted academic philosophy. Sometimes it seems people in the world of literature are much more open to an honest and thoughtful debate, as they are not constrained by professionalism. I have little interest in people who want to live off their academic reputation in matters of thought and ideas. The realm of thinking is open to us all, and should be conducted respecting this fact. It is not an exclusive possession of official experts. Colin Wilson is a great reminder to us of this. The creative mind flourishes when it is thinking freely from the need to please powerful groups in society and entrenched institutions.

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